We always like it when we recognise family stories behind brands and distilleries, entrepreneurial epics that take huge turns and then return like Venditti’s love affairs. The story of the Teeling family and the whiskey of the same name is one such story. Because Jack and Stephen Teeling, who in 2015 opened a distillery in the Dublin area called The Liberties, didn’t end up there by chance. They are the sons of John, who founded the legendary Cooley distillery in 1987. And they are the last descendants of Walter, who in 1782 opened a small craft distillery in Marrowbone lane, not far from where the new Teeling is now. This was the first distillery to reopen in the Irish capital after 125 years, when in the past there had been up to 37 active distilleries.
We have spoken about Teeling, which we like very much, before. The most common expression is the blended Irish small batch, to which a single grain and a single pot still have been added, but recently the phoenix distillery has decided to focus heavily on single malt as well, even winning the prize for the best single malt in the world at the World Whisky Awards in 2019 with the 24 year old. Hot on the heels of this success, Blackpitts, the house’s first peaty expression, has recently been launched. The name comes from the industrial area not far away, once home to malt houses and imbued with the scents of peat used in drying the grain. Distilled three times, it is aged two thirds in ex-bourbon casks and one third in ex-Sauternes casks. Thanks to the immense Gabriele Rondani of Rinaldi 1957, the Italian importer, for letting us taste it in Castelfranco Veneto, at the end of an evening we will remember.
N: the impact is immediately peculiar. A chemical hint of adhesive tape strikes, some say ‘the kind you buy from the Chinese supermarkets’, as if the kind you buy in a stationer’s shop was more delicate… There are hints of schnapps, the German fruit brandy, followed by notes of lemon seltzer candy and something floral. So on two nostrils it doesn’t seem particularly interesting, especially as the peat remains in the second row. Rather than being smoky as we would imagine the air of 19th century Dublin to be, it takes the path of the chemical, almost of extinguished charcoal. Finally, an herbaceous note emerges, like camphor.
P: there is an unannounced share of fruit, between coconut and dehydrated pineapple, which tends to redeem a nose that falls short of expectations. There is also a peculiar smoke, like that of a cocktail or kitchen smoker, that contraption that grills wood shavings and turns them into an attraction for influencers with mixologist ambitions. A simple sweetness between propolis and barley candy completes the picture.
F: long, unexciting, has notes of not too integrated alcohol, apple and ash. Burnt and wet paper.
The triple distillation is a bit of a puzzlement here, although our experience of triple-distilled peat is certainly very limited, so much so that this may be the first one we drink. It’s true that it’s a different peat from Scottish peat, but it’s a bit one-dimensional, perhaps because so many phenolic parts remain imprisoned in the third still (we know that triple distillation doesn’t necessarily use three stills, come on, don’t be so precise!). On the whole, it didn’t convince us: we always like Teeling, but we prefer it when it’s clean, without peat. Instructive, however: 79/100.
Recommended soundtrack: The Cranberries – Ode to my family.